Coffee battle percolates in Square

00:00, May 28 2014
STORM IN COFFEE CUP: Coffee cart operator Kellie Upton with her cart in the Square.

Palmerston North coffee cart operator Kellie Upton is crying foul over the city council allowing the Rogue Trader to sell coffee in The Square in competition with her business.

The Soulsista cart is struggling to return a profit, even with the influx of bus passengers visiting the mobile food vendors since InterCity buses started parking in The Square this month.

Upton said on days the Village Inn's Rogue Trader was on site, her coffee sales halved.

"I can't make it if he is here."

She said it was unfair, because the lease agreement with the city council promised it would not grant leases to operators who would be in direct competition with those already there.

Her complaint was with the council, not the Rogue Trader, she said.


But council property manager John Brenkley said the council had honoured its side of the deal.

Nigel Lynn's Rogue Trader was a food cart, that also sold coffee, Brenkley said.

Upton had the only dedicated coffee cart, and that was her choice, he said. "We are trying to encourage vendors that sell different types of food, to encourage variety, and healthy food.

"We can't tell the others not to sell coffee and drinks with their food."

What the council did insist on was that traders occupied their spots for a minimum of two hours a day on three days of the week.

"We have asked him to comply with that."

Lynn said he had paid $2000 for his spot in The Square, and was within his rights to sell and advertise coffee alongside his "soul food". Tacos are one of the favourites on his menu.

He said Soulsista was in The Square before him, and he would have expected it to have a business plan, to have claimed its share of the market and built up a loyal band of customers.

"It's not my fault if she can't market her business.

"I'm more than happy to help her if she wants some advice.

"We are all in the same game, and it's not easy."

Upton said the coffee cart was her livelihood and her hope to be financially independent.

A single parent, she had worked in the same job for eight years on $14 an hour before going into business.

"I thought I would give a coffee cart business a go.

"It has been so hard.

"I was barely making it before, and now having direct competition 15m away from me is so unfair," Upton said.

Manawatu Standard